Chesterton Tribune

Report: Indiana poverty up; wages down

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Leigh DeNoon

Indiana News Service

INDIANAPOLIS - While Indiana is often referred to as a model for economic recovery, a policy analyst for the Indiana Institute for Working Families says the state’s books may look good because of austerity measures, but Hoosiers are suffering as a result.

Analyst Derek Thomas says more than a third of Indiana’s population is living near or in poverty.

“The most alarming thing that we see right now is that increase in poverty and those decreases in wages, well above the national average, nearly eclipsing the entire U.S. in loss of wages and increases in poverty.”

Thomas says that since 2000, Indiana’s poverty rate has gone up 52 percent to the sixth-highest in the nation.

“If we include those who are living near poverty as defined by the federal poverty guidelines, that would be 35 percent of the state or 2.2 million Hoosiers living in or near poverty.”

According to the report, Hoosier employers are frustrated by how few skilled applicants there are, even as large numbers of people apply for jobs. Thomas says job seekers need help attaining new skills.

“Since Indiana continues to rank near the bottom of the nation in educational attainment levels, we can only expect employers to continue to struggle to find a skilled work force.”

Thomas says Hoosier wages have dramatically dropped since the recession.

“We’ve seen median household income fall by 13.6 percent from $51,000 to about $44,000. This is the second-largest decrease in the nation, and we’re only earning 85 cents on the dollar compared to the rest of the nation.”

The Institute is urging lawmakers and the governor to fund programs to help give Hoosiers access to better job skills by expanding financial aid for more certificate programs, increase the minimum wage and adopt a work-sharing program.

Posted 5/1/2012